Primary Health Care Nurses as Change Agents: The Impact of Supportive Partnerships

Ms Inara Beecher1, Ms Sabine Drilling2, Ms Vanessa Poulsen2, Ms Noelene Cooper1

1Country SA PHN, Torrensville, SA

2Heart Foundation SA , Adelaide, SA


Regional SA has high levels of burden of CVD and despite this, screening for cardiovascular disease using the Absolute Risk (AR) tool has had limited uptake. Mortality due to the cardiovascular condition of ischaemic heart disease remains the leading cause of death in SA. Based on this data Country SA PHN (CSAPHN) engaged with the Heart Foundation (HF) in SA to determine potential approaches to address this.

The HF has a long-standing reputation for generation and translation of evidence-based guidelines for prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. The Nurse Ambassador program (NAP), running since 2004, provides a model for facilitating effective knowledge translation, change management and quality improvement. Discussions with the HF highlighted that there had been limited access by rural primary health care (PHC) nurses to join NAP. Reasons included distance, employer’s capacity to release nurse and limited PD budget.

CSAPHN formed a partnership with the HF in SA to provide scholarships for regional PHC nurses to participate in the NAP. The scholarships program is for 2 years (2017/18) with the aim to target 16 country SA regions. Each scholarship was determined using the Modified Monash Model approach. The scholarship funding was to be used for travel/accommodation/at discretion (babysitter etc). Scholarship nurses are tasked with implementing AR assessments in their practice and are supported via workshop sessions including change management and clinical updates.

November 2017, 7 PHC nurses completed the NAP under the CSAPHN scholarship. 8 PHC nurses are currently participating. All have stated they would not have been able to attend if not for scholarship.

In these regions, general practices are now doing primary prevention with patients being actively managed and supported to make lifestyle changes. The PHC nurses have identified the opportunity they have to be ‘change agents’ in their rural communities.


Noelene Cooper CSAPHN Project Manager has worked in health for thirty years including; Pharmacy, General Practice, Divisions of General Practice and Medicare Locals. Noelene has a Diploma in Population Health and manages the After Hours Program and the Chronic Pain Management Project.
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